An Underground Adventure
The adult leaders who were driving around the area to meet us on the east side stopped at a local café to ask for directions. Somehow, this inquiry was interpreted as an emergency search-and-rescue for Boy Scouts lost on the Fuson Conservation Area
First responders and county-level authorities were dispatched to the area to begin the search. Others who monitor law enforcement radio traffic arrived just to see what was going on. It was a cold, rainy day and apparently people didn’t have much to do. I got to the command center just in time to stop the call for additional search-and-rescue people and equipment, including ambulances.
Search teams had been dispatched to various grids on the 1,200-acre conservation area to look for the scouts. It was amazing that more than 30 Boy Scouts making a huge amount of noise and strung out for hundreds of yards were not spotted by any of the search teams.
Needless to say, I had some explaining to do, and I’m sure there were numerous lengthy reports written by search-and-rescue authorities on the incident. We assembled the scouts around one of the fire trucks for pictures, and most of the boys had the opportunity to ride it back to the campground. The caving trip was concluded.
My tenure as a Boy Scout leader is over now. The scouts from that trip are grown and working in various fields, and I occasionally see a few of them at community events. We always chat about the caving trip, the fire trucks and the search-and-rescue teams.
I can tell from our conversations that this particular trip had an impact on their awareness of Missouri’s unique cave resources and how important our management of the land above caves is to those creatures whose entire lives are spend underground.
That sudden, intense rain storm drove home the point that caves and cave animals are dependent on the quality of water that comes off the land. These former scouts became the next generation of Missouri conservationists
Missouri Cave Facts
Missouri has more than 6,200 caves—second only to Tennessee—and is known as the Cave State. More caves are discovered every year.
Karst is the geologic term referring to locations with underground caves, sinkholes and losing streams, where water disappears underground and exits as springs.
Missouri caves were used by Native Americans for shelter and burial ceremonies
Missouri caves are habitat for species of snails, crayfish and insects found nowhere else in the world and which cannot survive outside of caves.
Missouri’s limestone bedrock formed 300 to 500 million years ago as ancient sea beds that were then uplifted to form the Ozarks. This created ideal conditions for cave formation as water seeped underground dissolving the limestone.
The Conservation Department protects hundreds of caves on public land and assists other agencies with cave inventory, management and protection.